Ever since the 18th century its been said that “markets are becoming more dynamic”. This is a state of affairs extending universally to encompass the known world like an epochal constant. It may as well be chanted from the rooftops as a hymn to eternal creation. And its been the basis for an administrative rhetoric for many generations. This is the familiar discourse that says market participants must become more dynamic if they want to participate. Public institutions are not flexible enough, so they need to privatize or restructure. Labourers only get jobs if they can change with the market’s fluctuations. There arises an omnipresent “thou must” hanging over everyone and everything, a universal imperative to translate the dynamism of the market. Everything must be adjusted in light of its tidal flip-flops. Tentatively accepting this imperative, let’s consider some questions that remain. Should public institutions simply surrender themselves to the flux of the market? Or is there a distinctly public dynamism, an appropriately public way of responding to market forces, that remains unthought?
The financial media caters strictly to the private desires of investors. All its distinguishing features are side-effects of its insular fixation on market values in the near-future. Rampant rumours fuel endless discussions about which spokesperson used what adjective, and experts are paid to translate rumours into probabilities. Statistics drive prices according to who cites them, and regardless of how they were generated. The writing of private interest is welded concretely back to itself, taking its perverse target in the raising of portfolios. This language is primarily intended to drive markets up. It’s speech that performs the endless falsification where the market over-estimates its own quality. This deranged facticity provokes the deepest scepticism But information of potentially broad interest also circulates through the financial media. Amidst the sea of daily market hype there are messages of consequence for the general public. These messages concern worldly transformations and states of affairs, singular processes underway within the physiology of industry. Unfortunately such truths are rarely heard above the noise of ticker-tape gossip, since these messages are non-trivial and only legible within vast contexts. A public financial journalism would extract and compile this distinct grade of market information, addressing these messages to larger populations.
Economics deserves a bad reputation for how it anchors perspectives around private interests such as investments, jobs, wages, prices… or even clean air. The only true economic problem is that we lack a semiotics capable of resisting the gravity of private ends. Any authentic discourse of economic resistance involves messy encounters with the operation of markets. This would be a literature that discloses the market’s intensities and spatio-temporal dynamism from a safe distance. This counter-economics would unfold a vast geographical semiotic. From mineral deposits in the earth to satellites drifting through the sky, from the offices of accountants to the workshops of village craftsmen, from urban vegetable stalls to the fortresses of defence contractors. A counter-finance would would establish its institutional gestalt at the colossal scale of the Earth.
“The market” names an anomalous wobbling which causes human ambivalence. It goes up and down all day and night, and boom and bust every few decades. This is how we absorb vast cosmic oscillations, most important being the seasonal absorption of solar radiation through agriculture. The economy is where populations come into contact with an unstable outer cosmos, a buffer-zone at the edge of civilization. Cosmic vibrations in the outer strata cause psyches to oscillate, and this exposes humanity to creaturely discomforts. A public financial semiotics would construct a protective screen to shield populations from the instability of “outer economies”, from the dangerous vacuity of coursing images, and from the reckless affects of enjoyment and entitlement. The economic danger includes all that runs between the solar element in the writings of George Bataille and what Lacan called objet petite a. A counter-economic discourse would shield populations from direct exposure to the economic abyss, and presenting the markets from behind the safety of a protective shield.